Friday, September 30, 2011

My Best Biscuits

When the weather is cold I often get up and make biscuits from scratch and make either sausage or (more often) chipped beef gravy to ladle on top of them.  My gravy is always good, but my biscuits sometimes don't "rise" to the occasion.

I had planned to get up early this morning and have home made biscuits and gravy with my coffee... But I slept later than I'd planned.  So I hurried and was less meticulous in my biscuit making.  I sort of measured the flour and baking powder, but guessed with the salt and shortening... And I spent less time blending in the shortening with my pastry knife.  I did measure the buttermilk that outdated last spring, but didn't kneed the dough much... I just wasn't in the mood...

In the oven my biscuits raised beautifully.

I figure this:  My Great-Grandmother Lawrence made biscuits most every day. (My Mother still dreams of them) She didn't measure anything and she probably didn't blend her shortening to perfection because she probably used a table knife, not the five blade pastry tool that I use... nor did she kneed the dough to death.

So I've decided that the next time I make biscuits I'll review the recipe on the label of my Clabber Girl Baking Powder tin... but I'll simply wing it from there and use my best judgement... I'll carelessly mix and kneed... and think of my Great Grandmother Lawrence... How she cooked for her husband Alonzo... Her beloved "Lonnie."


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Must See Black and White

My understanding is that movies filmed in black and white require an artistry peculiar to the black and white film... an artistry that could not be appreciated if the movies were colorized.  I think that's why many movie-buffs threw a fit and fought colorization.  I think these are the same people that fought for the TV letterbox editions of wide screen movies.

Anyway, I'm leaving out black and white Casablanca, It's a Wonderful Life, Philadelphia Story, Dr Strangelove, Bringing Up Baby, Harvey, Sunset Blvd, and a few other movies that I figure... If you haven't seen them, there's no hope for you anyway.  I hope to include some lesser-known gems.

1.  You Can't Take It With You... Comedy 1938... Jean Arthur, Jimmy Stewart, Lionel Barrymore, Edward Arnold, Spring Byington, Ann Miller... What a cast!  I love Jean Arthur.

2.  The Snake Pit... Drama 1948... Olivia de Havilland was nominated for best actress in this look into an insane asylum.  When the poor souls sing "Going Home"... If you don't get a tear in your eye, you're an insensitive thug.

3.  Teacher's Pet... Comedy 1958... Clark Gable, Doris Day, Gig Young, and a young Marion Ross (Happy Days) ... Just a great movie.

4.  It Happened One Night... comedy 1934... Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert... Oscar's Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Picture... enough said.

5.  Sitting Pretty... Comedy 1948... Clifton Webb, Maureen O'Hara, Robert Young, and the always nasal Richard Haydn... Webb's 2nd best movie after Laura.

6.  Anatomy of a Murder... Drama 1959...  Jimmy Stewart, Ben Gazarra, George C Scott, Eve Arden, and a very young and sexy Lee Remick.

7.  The Plainsman... Western 1936... Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur... Wild Bill and Calamity, what fun!  I love Jean Arthur.

8.  Now, Voyager... Drama 1942... Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains... If you like cosmetic makeovers, you'll love this "best of" Davis.

9.  Arsenic and Old Lace... Comedy 1944... Cary Grant, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre... My mother's favorite movie, and in my childhood, the one "late show" offering deemed important enough for me to stay up and watch.

10.  The Shepherd of the Hills... Drama 1941... John Wayne, Harry Carey, Betty Field, Ward Bond, Marjorie Main... Early Duke, you just want to hug Betty Field.

11.  Love in the Afternoon... Comedy/Drama 1957... Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn, Maurice Chevalier... Spring-Autumn Romance, and the leads are so good you believe it... But watch the movie for Chevalier.

12.  Gaslight... Drama 1944... Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotton, and a very young Angela Lansbury... Origin of the psychological term, "gaslighting."

13.  Mr Deeds Goes to Town... Comedy 1936... Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur... Same Movie as Mr Smith Goes to Washington and Meet John Doe, but better.  I love Jean Arthur.

14.  To Have and Have Not... Drama 1944... Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Walter Brennan... Maybe B and B made a better movie when they made Key Largo, but you need to see this one.

15.  Ball of Fire... Comedy 1941... Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck... A hot chick falls in love with a geek, so I had to include this one.  Very funny movie!

16.  All About Eve... Drama 1950... Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Thelma Ritter, Gary Merrill, and some newcomer named Marilyn Monroe... Just a great movie.

17.  The Day the Earth Stood Still... Science Fiction 1951... Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Sam Jaffe, Aunt Bea (Frances Bavier) with scenes of Washington D.C. before it became a sewer.  This film gets my vote for the best science fiction movie ever made.

18.  Angel and the Bad Man... Western 1947... John Wayne, Harry Carey, Gail Russell.  The influence of a good woman... And Gail Russell is 1940's-Drop-Dead-Beautiful.

19.  The Westerner... Western 1940... Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan... Oscar for best Supporting Actor went to Walter Brennan because he stole the show!

20.  Rebecca... Suspense 1940... Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Nigel Bruce, Leo G Carroll... Oscar's Best Picture, and Joan Fontaine's performance was so compelling... she was nominated for best actress... and lost to Ginger Rogers?

21.  Laura... Drama 1944... Clifton Webb, Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Vincent Price... Great murder mystery, Clifton Webb's best.

22.  Grand Hotel... Drama 1932... Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery... Great cast, great movie... If for nothing else, watch it for Garbo's face.

23.  Manhattan... Comedy 1979... Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemingway, Michael Murphy, Meryl Streep... Annie Hall was great, but this is Woody Allen's best film.  Gershwin tunes, New York, comedy... the best!

24.  The President's Lady... Drama 1953... Susan Hayward, Charlton Heston... Absolutely one of my favorite movies ever!  Andrew Jackson's life and his love... Heston also played Jackson in The Buccaneer, but that was in color.

25.  Sergeant York... Drama 1941... Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond, Noah Beery Jr, and a very young June Lockhart... If you watch it with a liberal, he will say it trashes the concept of a conscientious objector.

26.  Rain... Drama 1932... Joan crawford, Walter Huston... Morality, bad girl, overbearing Christian... I loved it, but don't try to watch it with a full bladder.

27.  Suspicion... Mystery 1941... Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Nigel Bruce... Joan Fontaine won Oscar's Best Actress, probably because she should have won for Rebecca... One of Hitchcock's best. (Rear Window was his best, but in color)

28.  The Best Years of Our Lives... Drama 1946... Frederick March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Virginia Mayo, Cathy O'Donnell (who played Judah Ben Hur's sister)... An amazing movie about the men who came home from WWII.

29.  The Killers... Drama 1946... Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner...  I include this movie because this film-noir classic feautures Gardner's face... stunning, unforgettable...  
30.  Shane... Western 1953... Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Jack Palance... Jean Arthur was 53 years old when she made this movie... and still beautiful.  I love Jean Arthur.

I spent a lot of time on this list, (I love lists) but how many did I leave out?  How many have you seen?


Friday, September 23, 2011

Perry Como-Nover

During Thursday night's Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum all took shots at Rick Perry's record on illegal immigration. Bachmann said that Texas's law allowing in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants acted like a "magnet" for illegal immigrants. Perry's response was forceful and personal. "I don't think you have a heart," Perry told his critics.

Now I will support the Republican nominee no matter who it is, but I don't like Perry's Illegal Immigration record and I really don't like him suggesting that those of us who respect the rule of law somehow do not have a heart.  What an arrogant, condescending comment from this corn-fed hayseed of a J.R. Ewing impersonator... ... ... who I will enthusiastically support if he gets the nomination.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hostages Released

The last two of three hikers kidnapped two years ago by the criminal government in Iran were evidently released today.  That's nice.  I guess someone paid the ransom of one million dollars. 

I heard that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in New York... I wish someone would kidnap him and plant his criminal ass in a jail cell... waste two years of his life...

I'd like that...


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Compton's Hardware

Last Thursday the light in my refrigerator went out... Looking for your food with a flashlight is no way to live.  Since I worked in Tipton today I decided to visit my favorite hardware store to replace the bulb.

Compton's Hardware is in an old brick building on the main drag, and when you walk inside, you walk into the past.  The rough wooden floors are ancient and the air smells like dust.  The shelves and walls are crowded... packed full of inventory, some of which I'm sure dates back to the 50's... maybe earlier. 

I walked up to the old guy behind the bench and handed him the burned out bulb.  I followed him as he shuffled a couple aisles over and he handed me the replacement.  $1.35

My plastic bucket split open earlier this summer, so I asked him if he had a bucket that would last me the rest of my life.  I followed him to a table where he handed me a metal bucket with a heavy steel handle.  $11.49

The bulb was $1.35 and the bucket was $11.49, so naturally my total bill was 12 dollars even.

Tipton sports a lone strip mall which features an ACE hardware store with bright lights and a clean linoleum floor.  The inventory is well organized and I'm sure the stock is rotated efficiently.  But there is no romance... No ambiance that transports you back in time.

If you ever find yourself in rural Tipton, Indiana... Do yourself a favor...


Friday, September 16, 2011

Wth the Global Warming Hoax winding down, Evidently Al Gore has found another crisis to save us from.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

America's Poor

According to the Census Bureau 46 million Americans live at a level of poverty that allows them to be considered "poor" by the United States Government.  But being poor in America is a little bit different than being poor in third world countries. 

For example:
1)  Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

2)   Fully 92 percent of poor households have a microwave; two-thirds have at least one DVD player and 70 percent have a VCR.

3)  Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite television.

4)  Half have a personal computer; one in seven have two or more computers.

5)  More than half of poor families with children have a video game system such as Xbox or PlayStation.

6)   Just under half — 43 percent — have Internet access.

7)  A third have a widescreen plasma or LCD TV.

8)  One in every four has a digital video recorder such as TiVo.

9)  The average poor American has more living space than the average non-poor individual living in Sweden, France, Germany or the United Kingdom.

10)   Forty-two percent of all poor households own their home; on average, it’s a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.

11)  Nearly 75 percent have a car or truck; 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks.

12)   Four out of five poor adults assert they were never hungry at any time in the prior year due to lack of money for food.

I do not list this data to suggest there is no suffering in America.  There is drug use, child neglect, homelessness...

But I think of the movie Arthur and Grandma Bach telling her grandson, "You can't be poor, Arthur...  You don't know how!"  Well, obviously there are people in America who have figured it out.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Best Rock Albums from My Youth

Before there were CD's... Before you could purchase individual tracks from the Internet... We bought records and played them on a record player.  It was a technology made for eventual failure because records eventually wore out... Although the technology was superior to the 8-track tape.

Many records had one or two terrific cuts, but were balanced with songs that were sub par... and this fact plays a tremendous role in my choices.  My "best" albums are good from beginning to end.  They do not include "best hits of" albums from a particular artist. 

I also consider innovation, fresh new sounds, and lyrics.

15.  The Doors  The Doors... In an amazing display of parental ignorance my mother, upon my request, gave me this album as a Christmas present when I was 14 years old... Light My Fire, Break On Through, Backdoor Man... A great trashy album.

14.  Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road...  This was a dynamo when I was in college.  This double album started with the instrumental Funeral for a Friend and never let up. 

13.  Carole King's Tapestry...  Who didn't own this album?   ...An incredible songwriter with a style that delivered.

12.  Neil Young's Harvest... Great album with Heart of Gold, A Man needs a Maid, The Needle and the Damage Done... Good from beginning to end.

11.  Steely Dan  Can't Buy a Thrill...  No filler... all good.

10.  Dan Fogelberg's Home Free... An incredibly fresh sound.  He followed with Souvenirs which was almost as good.

9.  Jackson Browne's Late for the Sky... This soulful, romantic poet's wordy offerings had incredible depth... The cool girls loved him.

8.  The Eagles' Hotel California... On the Border and their first, Eagles, had a charm all their own, but from beginning to end, Hotel California was their best.

7.  Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA... (OK, maybe a little past, or at least encroaching upon the edges of my youth...)  Maybe the best Rock and Roll album of all time, though his Born to Run album was maybe more artistic and innovative.

6.  The Beatles' Abbey Road... Epic, incredibly innovative... Maybe Let it Be came close, but Abbey Road was their best.

5.  Linda Ronstadt's  Simple Dreams... Referred to by many as "the best pipes in the business," this was Ronstadt's best... Every song was good.

4.  Pink Floyd  Dark Side of the Moon... This album stretched the boundaries of recorded sound, and the lyrics were amazing.

3.  Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water... This album had everything from Keep the Customer Satisfied with its amazing instrumental arrangement, to The Boxer which explored the dark side of humanity. 

2.  Joni Mitchell's Miles of Aisles... This is the best live album of all time.  Maybe it breaks my "best hits of" rule... But this poet with a voice like the wind produced something incredible.  If my "best hits of" rule was strictly enforced, I'd still place her here for Court and Spark.

1.  Billy Joel's Piano Man... Joel went commercial after his first effort, but I don't care.  This was a great album.  It had its hits, but every song was entertaining and fresh.

I think this is a good list, but the problem with lists is placement... I can't really say that Piano Man was greater than Tapestry... And I wonder who I have forgotten... 

I would love to hear about your favorite albums...


Monday, September 12, 2011

You can't beat a girl that can sing and play an instrument at the same time.  I confess that I loved The Carpenters... Until I went to college and learned they were utterly uncool.

Malott Eats Fish

OK... So I have been a big beef, pork, and chicken eater all my life... Which is probably why bachelors such as myself die young.  But I have recently developed a love affair with baked fish.  My girlfriend from college, who lives in Maryland not far from the Chesapeake Bay, who occasionally tosses an email my way... She told me about "Old Bay Seasoning" that the local crab shacks use.  She said it would be good on fish!  I found it at WalMart and have used it liberally on frozen Tilapia fillets that I bought at Sam's Club. 

Old Bay Seasoning is produced somewhere near Baltimore... Her old stomping grounds.

The Tilapia fillets come individually wrapped and I bake them at 350 for 30 minutes... Delish!

Today I bought a big bag of "Swai" fillets from Vietnam... only eleven bucks.  I had never eaten communist fish before, but tonight I tried them and they are almost as good as the Tilapia.  If my butt doesn't itch in the morning I figure they either have no parasites, or the baking process killed them.  I'll let you know.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

10 Years Later...

I was working in a hospital laboratory on September 11, 2001.  I had just been diagnosed with melanoma and was facing surgery in a few days... I had been told I had a 92% chance of still being alive in 8 years.  Up until that time I had been indestructible. 

I was processing blood samples in Chemistry when Annie told me what had happened in New York, and  I immediately followed her into the break-room where two other workers were huddled around the TV..  I remember the instant nausea.  I remember the inability to concentrate on my work.

Three young girls in their early twenties were working with us that day, and it amazed me how unaffected they appeared to be.  They went about their work and even laughed, I remember.

Heather, one of the three, came into the break-room to tell me something and glanced at the image on the TV screen.  I said, "You realize our world changed today?" 

 Last year I asked Heather if she remembered what I told her that morning.  Without hesitating she replied, "You said our world had changed."

I remember the moment when I felt better.  It was when I saw a picture of a young man standing on an overpass, waving a big American Flag at the cars passing below.  When asked later he said something like, "I felt I had to do something, and I didn't know what else to do." 


Thursday, September 08, 2011

Net Hymnal

The saddest disgrace in the modern American Church... well, besides all the rich, lukewarm, worldly believers taking up space... is the abandonment of the hymn.  Even small rural churches with mostly older populations have one or two frustrated performers up in front singing the modern stuff, oblivious to whether or not any one else is joining in.  They don't care... They have their microphone and the attention they crave.  The modern Christian music sounds more like the world's music... ... ...  What a treat for The Lord that we've found another way to be more like the world!

I hope that didn't sound harsh or unloving.

Anyway, I found a web site called Net Hymnal... And it electronically plays the hymn, lists the words, the composer's name, picture, and brief autobiography.  Love it!

So if you're tired of the pap every Sunday morning, go to Net Hymnal and remember the rich heritage that has inspired generations... Up until the modern church decided it knew better.


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Quote of the Day

One reason I supported President Obama is because he said we must protect clean air, water and lands. But what good is it to say the right thing unless you act on it?” Redford writes. “Since early August, three administration decisions -- on Arctic drilling, the Keystone XL pipeline and the ozone that causes smog -- have all favored dirty industry over public health and a clean environment. Like so many others, I'm beginning to wonder just where the man stands.”
--Robert Redford

Obviously there are those who are even more clueless than President Obama.

Liberal Hollywood Elites have theirs... They will never be poor or middle class... They will never struggle to find a job, sacrifice to pay college tuition, or pinch pennies to make their retirement savings stretch after inflation makes their money worth less.

They can afford to be carelessly and mercilessly idealistic.


Thursday, September 01, 2011

Bleh, bleh, bleh... (said with a heavy fake French accent)  For years we've heard talk about waste and abuse in government spending, but have you noticed that Washington never does anything about it?  Republicans do nothing.  Democrats want more.  The Tea Party is (was?) our last chance.